Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The film tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa's rugby team to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa's rugby team as they make their historic run to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship match. Written by
Matt Damon informed Clint Eastwood about Francois Pienaar's distinct physique: "You know, this guy is huge!" Eastwood replied, "Hell, you worry about everything else. Let me worry about that." By structuring set-ups and camera angles, Eastwood was able to make the average-height Damon look about Pienaar's height. See more »
Near the end of the movie, Francois Pienaar mentions Nelson Mandela's "30 years in that cell," referencing his visit to Mandela's cell on Robben Island. In fact, Mandela spent about 17.5 of his 27 years of imprisonment in the cell on Robben Island. He was imprisoned in Johannesburg and then Pretoria for about a year and a half during his trial, then sent to Robben Island for 17.5 years. He was moved to Pollsmoor Prison for 6 years, then to Victor Verster Prison for 2 years until his release. When Mandela's earlier arrests and imprisonments are factored in, he did spend about 30 years in prison, just not at Robben Island. (See Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.) See more »
High School Boy:
[seeing passing motorcade]
Who is it, sir?
High School Coach:
It's the terrorist Mandela, they let him out. Remember this day boys, this is the day our country went to the dogs.
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Warner Bros.' logo from 1994 is used for both the opening and ending of the movie in keeping with the time period of the film. See more »
People forget that Nelson Mandela came to power at a time when his country was bitterly divided. There was the bitter experience that white South Africans saw in their neighboring countries,i.e., Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and other nations where the White colonialist had been replaced by Black African politicians and a stable government had been replaced by corrupt, self-serving regimes where those in power feathered their nests after seizing the assets of their former White citizens and placed all their friends in positions of authority with the result of the country going to the dogs. The scene where the Afrikaaner newspaper remarks, "Mendela can get elected but can he run a country," and the superb Morgan Freeman remarks to his bodyguard that the headline raises a good point.
In a sense, this film is about Mandela. The rugby team becomes a metaphor of what he faced when ascending to the presidency, a nation divided. Noting that the Black South Africans were cheering for the opposition in the face of the old Apartheid guard whose love of rugby unified them. It's easy to forget that there was a great division among White South Africans, i.e., the descendants of the Boers, Afrikaaners, and the rest. There was even a middle ground with the "Coloreds," Asian South Africans, being caught between these two worlds and there were bitter rivalries among the competing African political interest groups as well.
Mandela's focus on reviving the national rugby team and making it a symbol of a new united nation homes in on the role of Matt Damon, an Afrikaaner who's the captain of the team. Francois is the catalyst that makes this story work and Damon, the rugged Mick from Boston, does a fantastic job showing the transition from hopelessness to hope as many White South Africans felt at that time. The wonderful thing about this film is its touching on all the levels. It goes beyond being merely the story of a single man or group of men. Sure, we love a "feel good" movie and of course we love an "underdog can win" flick, but this film works works because its about people working together to rebuild something new for everybody.
The film reeks with great moments: Pienaar visiting the cell where Mandela spent more than 20 years of his life, thinking and planning; The New Zealand Rugby team doing their Maori threat dance before the match; the jet buzzing the field before the game-- and so on. See it. Enjoy it. And, don't forget, it's a bit of history. Romanticized? Somewhat. Mandela wasn't able to solve all of South Africa's big problems, but he did one bang-up job for the Springboks.
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